03 June 2014

Jimenez and the Pitchers Baltimore Missed Out On

As you may remember, we had referred to Ubaldo Jimenez as Plan F.  As in, the Orioles tried to do a lot of different things before Ubaldo fell onto a pile of Baltimore cash.  Our view was simply that Jimenez was a good mid-tier pitcher, but there were very good reasons why teams avoided him.  Strangely, our thoughtful analysis of the move resulted in a great deal of teeth gnashing and folks stating that we are impossibly negative.  I think our assessment stands up pretty well and it will stand up pretty well unless we learn information that was known at the time of signing that should have resulted in us making a different conclusion.

In this post, and a few more to come over the year, we will encourage 20/20 hindsight and review how each targeted pitcher is performing.  Below is a table that marks the five pitchers I knew about and have on authority that I trust that serious efforts were made to sign these pitchers.  I also included three extras: Grant Balfour, Ervin Santana, and Bartolo Colon.  Santana and Colon appear to have been discussed seriously, but I do not have enough information to be convinced of that.  Balfour was obviously a serious target, but is included as an extra because he does not really fit the package presented in the first set of five starting pitchers.

as of May 30th
Ubaldo Jimenez Baltimore 62 2 6 4.65 4.05 0.3 0.8 11.3 MM
Tim Hudson Giants 70.1 5 2 1.92 2.92 2.2 1.1 11 MM
Scott Kazmir Oakland 68.2 6 2 2.36 3.01 1.6 1.5 7 MM
Gavin Floyd Atlanta 30.1 0 2 2.37 3.12 0.4 0.5 4 MM
Bronson Arroyo Arizona 60.2 4 3 4.15 4.22 0.6 0.4 9.5 MM

Ervin Santana Atlanta 57.2 4 2 4.06 3.19 0.4 0.9 14.1 MM
Bartolo Colon New York 64.2 4 5 4.73 3.67 -0.3 0.6 9 MM
Grant Balfour Tampa 19.2 0 1 5.49 5.74 -0.3 -0.5 4 MM

There was a bit of dismay when Arroyo passed on Baltimore, which now is silent.  To those following Santana, the annoyance at the beginning of the season has dissipated as he has cooled off.  There really has not been all that much difference between the final three pitchers that the Orioles were in on.  Where performance suggests they failed was missing out on Scott Kazmir and Tim Hudson, who have been solid to perhaps dominant out on the West Coast.  Additionally, Gavin Floyd is doing things in Atlanta that we all certainly wish Johan Santana will be able to do even half as well.

Perhaps a point to be made is to go over bWAR and fWAR again.  This past week I was presented WAR as a reason why Jeff Samardzija is a top flight pitcher.  The user of that statistic was confused by me asking if it was fWAR.  If one wishes to talk about specific players, I think it is imperative to consider whether it is fWAR or bWAR and whether they are career long trends.  The main difference between those two is that fWAR assumes that it is important to isolate the pitcher from his defense in order to assess his true value while bWAR assumes that a pitcher is somewhat responsible for batted ball types.  We know that for most pitchers, a defense independent perspective works.  However, there are a significant number of pitchers who year in and year out either over perform or under perform their FIP rather consistently.  A safe measure is simply to average the two values together for a composite score if you have no solid information delivering you to one of the methodologies for a given pitcher.


Ryan Solonche said...

Good article as per usual. Quick question on bWAR vs fWAR: While it is attempting to be defensively objective, does it take into account park factor and strength of opponent? I can understand the disparity for +/- 1.1 for Hudson as SF having a top 5 team defense in the NL. But even with a loaded Dodgers team and a hitting palace in Colorado, I would imagine Hudson is not facing the lineups he would have had he signed in the AL East. Does fWAR take into account level of competition?

Also with Kazmir we see very little difference in bWAR/fWAR -- and it feels like every time I watch a game at Oakland Coliseum you see 2-3 outs that would be foul in 9/10 other parks. If fWAR really took into account park factor, you'd think the difference in bWAR/fWAR would be greater for Kaz.

Anyway, here's to hoping Jimmy's K/BB ratio improves all year.

Jon Shepherd said...

bWAR uses three years of park factors in their calculation. fWAR uses 5 years. bWAR considers opposition on a team by team level of resolution. I do not believe fWAR does. It did not, but I am not sure if they have altered it any in that regard.

Jeremy said...

The WAR analysis resonates with me, and I won't argue with the fact that UJ was not nearly our Plan A. As with your commentary before the season, I have no problem with a negative perspective per se...it's the apparent smug and self-congratulating vibe that I get from your analysis on the signing. The tone is noticeably different from most of your other writing, and I don't know how to interpret that. Does this issue touch a nerve with you for some reason?

Aside from that, you could have run the same analysis after the first two months of 2013 and Jimenez would have looked subpar then as well. He posted a 1.82 ERA and 2.17 FIP the second half of last season. So, maybe you could wait a bit longer before implying that those who liked the signing were morons.

Jon Shepherd said...

Jeremy - I think you might be reading a bit too much into it. I do not think this is smug at all. I don't think there is an issue with tone here. Most of our writing is a bit conversational, but rooted. I could have written this more dryly, but part of the point of this exercise is to look at past evaluations and compare it to how things are playing out to see if certain things were overlooked. I stand by our analysis regardless of what transpires based on what we knew at the time. If hindsight shows that certain elements were overlooked and should be included in our analysis, then we will chalk that up and make the necessary changes in our evaluation process. If there is anything I speak out against is the emotional constructs folks use to substantiate decisions. Jimenez was one of those where a lot of comments we received were emotional based. I think it would be a disservice to those in the audience who engaged us to ignore the history of this discussion.

Anonymous said...

Another part to the equation is without getting Jimenez they may not have gotten Cruz either and then where would the O's be now?

Jon Shepherd said...

Anon - They would be about 6 games out instead of 4.5 games out.

Unknown said...

All these war numbers and BS makes me laugh. All the Orioles need is lead off hitter with a good OBP/2 guys in the lineup with speed. They have to many power hitters, base to base players. That is all. I know people like to over analyze baseball. Just stop trying to act like you are smarter then everyone.

Jon Shepherd said...

Jeff, you need to let MLB front offices know this so they can save the millions they spend on analytics.

Matt Kremnitzer said...

"war numbers"? Is that what David Ortiz was talking about?

Jim D. said...

The reason the original article was so negative was not because of any assessment of the value of the Jimenez signing, but because it ridiculed the Oriole's front office as incompetent for not being able to sign five other starting pitchers they considered before Jimenez. A positive article could just as easily have been written giving the front office credit for being persistent in trying to improve the starting rotation.

Also, I do not remember any analysis in the original article. Based on the following statement, "I think our assessment stands up pretty well and it will stand up pretty well unless we learn information that was known at the time of signing that should have resulted in us making a different conclusion.", what exactly was the original assessment and conclusion for which you are taking credit?

Jon Shepherd said...

Our assessment was based on the failed process, Jimenez' inconsistency, loss of draft pick, and that the Indians were wary of him at a reduced cost. We certainly emphasized the process because that was the most concerning aspect moving forward.

Jon Shepherd said...

Jim - Here is that original article: http://camdendepot.blogspot.com/2014/02/arrivals-and-departures-022114-jimenez.html

It actually covers all of the points I mentioned in the comment above.

Jim D, said...

I read the original article again, and I now see that there was more of an assessment of Jimenez than I remember. Also, I assume the statement "From my own perspective, Jimenez is not the right move." was the conclusion.

However, what stood out was the criticism of the front office, which I did not agree with at the time. I still disagree with your characterization that it was a "failed process". When the five pitchers who were called plans A-E signed with other teams, I assume the Orioles front office had a chance to beat the offers they signed and chose not to do so. For each of these pitchers, the Orioles apparently decided that they were not worth (to the Orioles) what it would have taken to beat their other offers. Those decisions could be debated on a case by case basis, but it does not mean that their process failed.

Jim D. said...

By the way, you should include Burnett if you are going to continue with these comparisons, since you considered him "plan E".

Jon Shepherd said...

Jim - Certainly, one could conclude that the process did not fail. However, I would even argue that poor consideration of what final price tags would be occupied this team in directions that were not possible or they really wanted guys and had to take the best of what was left. For me, it was either an identification issue or a scrambling issue.

Jon Shepherd said...

Oops..forget to put him in there.

Unknown said...

Jon I realize the front offices spend a ton of money on this over kill. It does not make it right. Anyways 95% of the front offices do a pretty bad job.

As for the Orioles it's painfully obvious the O'S need speed at the top of the lineup. Don't need to spend a mil to see that. The Orioles have to many power hitters that are station to station guys.

What they need to do this off season is let Hardy walk and Markakis. Love both these players but don't fit the team needs. Once again don't need to spend millions to figure this out. Go out and get speed guys with good OBP percentage at these positions and save millions. Spend the cash saved from not resigning these two players and sigh Cruz can't let that guy go. Sign Davis after the season his numbers will be down and can get him cheaper. Weiters as well or trade Weiters if there is another catcher out there that is defensive minded and save money there. The team will be much better and score at a more consistent rate.

The numbers thing at some point is over valued period and it gets real funny to watch all the over importance placed on it.

Matt Kremnitzer said...

95 percent of front offices are bad? Why is that?

And "speed guys with good OBP" are not cheap. Things aren't quite as simple as you think they are.

Jon Shepherd said...

Jeff...you stand to make a lot of money. You need to talk to an owner and I suggest you accept nothing less than 5 MM per year in salary.

Unknown said...

Matt most Front offices just throw money around and don't do it the right way. Build your farm. Tampa does it right, Oakland does it right Atlanta. Not many do. Teams like Yankees Dodgers to name a few just use their money with ridiculous contracts and buy up all the FA out there and give the smaller market teams no chance to compete. A big problem in baseball really the ONE big reason baseball has lost a lot of fans and is not the national past time it use to be.

As for the speed guys with a good OBP. No they are not cheap but you can find them and get a deal on them cheaper then a player like Hardy and Markakis.

Jon Shepherd said...

If you truly believe what you say then you should be chasing millions.

Ryan Solonche said...

Jeff -- how can you say "Tampa does it right, Oakland does it right Atlanta. Not many do." and then criticize stat-driven perspectives as being over-valued.

Those organizations more than any other HAD to dig deep into stats because they were working with much smaller budgets in the only major sport that does NOT have a cap.

The A's Moneyball was just market inefficiencies determined through stats. The Rays early love of defensive shifts and trading peaking outfielders for young arms (Wynn, Crawford, Upton) was based on stats. And that Atlanta team that seems to have excellent young pitching every year, they're draft process is backed by metrics, not by the eye test.

Your ideas are good, but without empirical evidence, why should choose your process?

Of all the sports where numbers are not actually overblown, its baseball and it's unique sample size of 162 games.

No hate, I just thought it was interesting you praised teams (Oakland and Tampa in particular) who HAD to analyze stats that other teams were overlooking.

Unknown said...

Ryan I see nothing wrong with stat driven teams, I just am sick of all the over blown use of it in the media. To me baseball has not changed but the numbers that are looked at have. People just seem to over think things way to much. To me it is obvious what the Orioles need and what type of player. Don't need all the new stats for that. That is all I am saying.You would be crazy not to use the new wave stats but it is not the end all be all by far. By using them 3 teams as an example I was more using them because they do not over pay for players and build through the farm. There are others but they are at the top. All teams these days use the same stats it is the new wave.

Jon Shepherd said...

There is actually quite a bit of variability in how statistics are used in a front office. For instance, I know of one club that really only uses defensive efficiency in the outfield and how different players affect that. Another club uses their own version of something like UZR or DRS. So, I would say a lot of clubs use similar approaches to figure out similar answers to the same question.

That said, large scale questions and answers for the most part rarely need much quantitative or qualitative analysis. Where those numbers and observations come into play is when we try to understand mechanistically how to improve a club. There is a meaningful difference between saying we need to improve our defense versus this is how we improve our defense. Still...with both approaches there is often a gap of uncertainty and sometimes a leap of faith.